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Catherine Bennett In The Guardian Today - On Labour And Housing

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No wonder there's a housing shortage - most of it has been snapped up by Labour MPs

Catherine Bennett

Thursday March 2, 2006

The Guardian

With a delightful turn of phrase that makes one long to hear more from his Commons public administration committee, its chair Tony Wright has remarked how Tessa Jowell must look back and wish "that over the breakfast marmalade she had said to her husband, 'Could you not do a bit of gentle conveyancing in the Home Counties?' " How rare it is, these days, to hear the word "gentle" used in proximity to "conveyancing" or, indeed, anything else related to house-buying in this country, an activity now so beset by cunning and dishonesty, hysteria and delusions that it makes allegations of Italian money-laundering (or "murky Italian corruption territory", as Wright put it) look like the new ethical living.

Wright's allusion to a languid, well-mannered style of property transaction takes one back, if not to the age of Agatha Christie (when modestly off murderees were forever taking vacant houses and cottages), at least to a time before the 1980s housing boom, since which time prices have risen by almost 600%. British householders, meanwhile, have gone mad with anxious greed, feeding their speculative fantasies with property supplements and TV makeover programmes that show how others - simply by buying new towels, or refreshing the kichen with some warm Mediterranean tints! - have suckered their buyers into paying too much.

For real inspiration on how to turn a profit from your property, however, you cannot do better than study the achievements of Labour politicians; not just those of the prominent Jowell-Mills family - whose regular remortgagings hint at personal finance strategies more enterprising than anything dreamed up by the experts on Moneybox Live - but of quiet backbenchers such as Sean Woodward, whose recent refurb increased the value of his Oxfordshire home by £15m. His tips? Why not improve your dilapidated home with new plastering and en-suite bathrooms? Simple, relatively inexpensive, and yet you'd be amazed at the impact on your asking price, particularly if you enhance the effect with a new pool and some professional landscaping.

Pocket that profit, and you might want to reinvest in buy-to-let - like Cherie's flats in Bristol, or Lord Falconer's houses, or Michael Meacher's extensive collections of spare homes - or find a place inside the catchment area of a good state school, thus achieving at once both the moral high ground and the cash to invest in more property, both here and abroad.

Is it possible to reconcile progressive thinking with an extensive property portfolio? As if the housing empires built up by some of Labour's foremost progressives were not enough to reassure us in this respect, the Lib Dem leadership contender Chris Huhne has also demonstrated that red-hot idealism need not rule out the ownership of nine homes, some for rent here, a few abroad; contact him at Westminster if you're interested.

One of the great advantages of property investment, even at its most insatiable, is that it attracts so little condemnation in comparison with other seemingly contradictory forms of personal/political behaviour. Although it is still considered faintly bad form, for example, for a Labour politician to oppose selective schools for others while (like my MP) sending her children to selective schools, the Labour party's regular pronouncements on the shortage of affordable housing need be no obstacle to any Labour MP or life peer inclined to exploit or contribute to that shortage. If education, education, education has become, of late, a somewhat implausible rallying cry, location, location, location remains, among Labour politicians as much as estate agents, an unalterable law.

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Nice one.

All one can add is:-

"Four legs good, two legs better!"

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

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  • 339 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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